Negotiations: Use Your Creativity to Advantage

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Creatives are very sensitive to their feelings and to the feelings of others. We use our feelings to connect to people through our work. We've learned that if our work feels right, it is right. We're constantly adjusting to assure ourselves that our work is achieving what we're looking for. This is never really done; we're continually adjusting and responding to what we think, see and feel. We're constantly 'reading' others to gauge their reactions.

These same skills can be used to advantage during negotiations, but rarely are.

The dilemma is that the feelings we get from our insights into others' reactions opens us up to our own insecurities. As a result, when we're in a stressful situation ­-- and negotiation is always stressful -- anxieties flood in. If we're not careful we'll be overwhelmed with unwanted emotions just when we need focus and clarity. We really feel it when we are being evaluated.

When we're negotiating, our self-worth is front and center. Our vulnerabilities are exposed.

The standard advice from master negotiators is to separate your work from yourself, or to care but not care too much. Great advice for the majority, but it's almost impossible for an artist, an actor, a designer or any creative to follow. In my experience, suppressing our vulnerabilities is exactly the wrong thing to do.

Instead embrace those feelings. Use them as a guide to what's really going on. Use them to your advantage. Being able to read the situation and your opposite gives you a way to use the very traits that can work against you, for you instead.

Here's my negotiation formula for creatives:

Expect anxiety.
Say to yourself, "This will be stressful, and I know that means it's important." Or say -- to yourself -- "Signal to self, anxiety means pay attention."

Remember your accomplishments.
Prior to the encounter write down your accomplishments. Include anything that has advanced your work and marked your progress in the eyes of others. Make note of your accomplishments so you remember them when you're feeling stressed.

Be honest.
Tell your opposite: "You know, I don't do this every day, and frankly, it's making me a bit nervous." Studies have shown that revealing your vulnerabilities reduces the discomfort time by half. Letting them know how you are feeling reminds them that you are human just like them.

Take action.
Questions are a great way to take action. Action gives you control and the result is always a boost in confidence. Start with light, get-to-know-you questions like: "Are you enjoying the weather? How was your flight? Are your kids back in school?" Follow up as appropriate. These simple, human questions build connection with your opposite and confidence in you. Once the connection is started you can move to more substantive issues. But, the key is taking action. Taking action is a documented way to build your confidence.

Watch them carefully. How do they seem? What do you sense? Are they encouraging? Are they nervous, why? Do they seem real? Are they artificial or genuine? And, in every case, why are they being that way? Use your insights to guide your next steps and further questions. Constantly evaluate whether or not you wish to move forward.

Separate issues from interests.
Issues are concrete things like money, schedule, and deliverables -- clearly definable, measurable things. Interests are values, relationships, hopes, dreams and aspirations. Use your insights to help you recognize their interests. Know that the underlying interests are far more important than the top-line issues.

With their needs fully understood, summarize your insights and how you will help them. Demonstrate your expertise. Let your conviction show. Light the fire.

Think about it.
Don't make a deal on the spot. Think about it overnight. Talk with those you trust to get additional insights. Use your creative insights to consider and expand your vision of what you can do.

Always remember that they need you.
They need your creative skills and insights more than you need them, and they know it. Inspire and demonstrate your creative advantage when you negotiate and in return you will get what you need to succeed for your clients.